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Pollution Levels Plummet in
Proctor Creek

Pollution tracking requires technical expertise, persistence, a certain fearlessness — and sometimes a little help from man’s best friend.  Mike Meyer (pictured above) still remembers the dog that unexpectedly jumped through a hole in a chain link fence, showing him one of the few ways to access a creek in northwest Atlanta suspected of being polluted with sewage.   

He was scouting for locations to take water samples on a tributary to Proctor Creek, as part of Chattahoochee Riverkeeper’s Neighborhood Water Watch (NWW) program — a highly successful initiative that Mike has managed for the past four years.

Today, more than 100 visits later, Mike nimbly squeezes through the dog’s hole in the fence with his sampling equipment, after saying hello to the folks he regularly sees in the community.   He’s told them that he’s checking the water and working to stop the pollution — and that he doesn’t work for the government.
While he can’t tell the residents that this urban stream is totally clean yet, Mike and CRK are celebrating a major victory, along with our volunteers and partners.

Recent tests show that E. coli bacteria levels in the tributary —once a thousand times the federal standard for public health — have decreased by seventy-five percent! As a result, the water in Proctor Creek is measurably safer for the surrounding community and wildlife, although there is still work to be done.

Fifteen Illegal Sewer Connections Found

Proctor Creek was once considered one of the most-polluted streams in the City of Atlanta. The nine-mile waterway begins in downtown Atlanta and flows downstream under Hollowell Parkway, past the Bellwood Quarry and under Jackson Parkway before entering the Chattahoochee River.

For decades, overflows from the city’s combined storm and sewer system spewed pollution into Proctor Creek 60-80 times per year — a public health hazard of enormous proportion.

In the early 1990s, two mini-treatment combined sewer overflow (CSO) facilities were constructed to screen and chlorinate the water before it was discharged into the stream. One of the facilities (known as Greensferry) was built on the tributary mentioned above. Both were failures.

As part of the settlement of CRK’s 1995 lawsuit against the city for its failure to meet clean water standards at the CSO facilities and elsewhere, the pipes in the combined Greensferry CSO watershed were separated and the facility de-commissioned.  In other words, the sewer lines were re-directed to a sewage treatment plant, while the stormwater continued to flow into creeks.

Water quality improved significantly, but problems remained.

In 2010, we began working with local residents and neighborhood groups to test water through our NWW program, an effort that has expanded to twenty monitoring locations in the Proctor Creek watershed; samples are collected by community volunteers trained in U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) procedures. To our knowledge, CRK’s bacteria monitoring initiative in the Proctor Creek watershed is the most comprehensive such program in the state of Georgia.

Spurred by CRK’s NWW data (329 water samples) and increasing pressure from the community, the city conducted an extensive investigation. Ultimately, fifteen illegal sewer connections were found at the decommissioned Greensferry facility and disconnected, stopping most of the flow of sewage into the Proctor tributary.

Proctor Creek and the surrounding community have received a great deal of well-deserved attention in recent years. EPA has declared the stream a National Urban Waters, making federal resources available for restoration initiatives. The city and many nonprofits, corporations and foundations have invested in the human and capital infrastructure in an attempt to revive a long struggling community.

CRK could not do this work without the support and participation of the Proctor Creek community and financial resources provided by The Turner Foundation, The Kendeda Fund, The James M. Cox  Foundation, Courts Foundation, EPA, Drs. Sally and Peter Parsonson, Harland Foundation and others. 

We’ve accomplished a lot in 2016…
take a look!

This year, CRK educated 8,974 students and adults aboard our floating classrooms, tested 4,256 NWW water samples, identified and stopped 16 major sewer spills, responded to 258 citizen hotline calls, distributed 602 rain barrels, and removed 23.4 tons of trash from the watershed!

Take a look at more of our achievements in our 2016 By the Numbers.

UPDATE: U.S. Drought Monitor Declares Extreme to Exceptional Drought for most of NW Georgia

Because of rain over the last couple of weeks (including January’s “snow” event), no Georgia counties are experiencing an Exceptional Drought now, however, water use restrictions are still in place. Read more here.

On November 17, 2016, the Georgia Environmental Protection Division (EPD) issued a release declaring a Level 2 Drought Response that limits outdoor watering to an odd/even (based on house numbers) schedule.

Most of northwest Georgia is under an extreme or exceptional drought. On September 9, 2016, the Georgia Environmental Protection Division (EPD) issued a release declaring a Level 1 Drought Response that encourages distribution of water conservation literature as well as restricted outdoor water use.  With winter fast approaching, little more is expected to be done by the state to alleviate the effects of the drought.  

Below average rainfall is expected throughout most of the state for the remaining months of the year.  Here are three tips on ways you can save water now for use later:

  1. Fix leaks- fixing toilet leaks will save 73,000 gallons PER toilet annually
  2. Update fixtures- replace pre-1994 toilets with low-flow models to save 6,900 galls PER person PER toilet
  3. Update appliances- replacing pre-1993 clothes washing machine with a WaterSense model will save 3450 gallons at 4 loads PER week

For more information, use our No Time To Waste guide to become more water smart, energy smart and garden smart!

Neighborhood Water Watch Reaches 10,000 Samples in 2016!

10,000 Samples!!! Neighborhood Water Watch is on fire!

This sample and 9,999 samples like it have helped us find and stop over 30 sources of pollution through Neighborhood Water Watch!! Thanks to volunteers like YOU, E.coli levels have dropped in the river!! Life is good; get out and enjoy what the river has to offer!  If you are interested in sampling in your neighborhood waterway, contact Mike Meyer to get started!

Apalachicola-Chattahoochee-Flint River Basin Named #1 “Most Endangered”

American Rivers announced today its annual list of America’s Most Endangered Rivers®, naming the Apalachicola-Chattahoochee-Flint River Basin in Alabama, Florida and Georgia the Most Endangered in the country. Outdated water management and rising demand have put the basin at a breaking point.

The water conflict that has gripped the region for almost three decades has come to a head with Florida’s U.S. Supreme Court suit against Georgia and the latest attempt by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) to update its protocols of managing the basin.

We are calling on the governors of Alabama, Florida and Georgia to swiftly act to form a transparent, water-sharing agreement that protects the rivers, and on the USACE to significantly improve water management to sustain river health.

The annual America’s Most Endangered Rivers® report is a list of rivers at a crossroads, where key decisions in the coming months will determine the rivers’ fates. Rivers are chosen for the list based on the following criteria: 1) The magnitude of the threat, 2) A critical decision-point in the coming year and 3) The significance of the river to people and nature.

CRK has long worked to find an equitable solution to the tri-state water conflict and will continue to advocate for solutions to ensure that current and future generations have enough clean water. Our work in this area includes:

Read more about this development in the AJC here >>


Community Spotlight

We would like to thank Cox Enterprises for their long-time support of CRK. Cox has provided invaluable resources to CRK from financial support to volunteer hours and endless media coverage, Cox has been right alongside CRK for over 20 years.

We are also very appreciative of long-time CRK Board Member Bill Hoffman, retiring President of Cox Media Group, and excited to welcome Marian Pittman, EVP Digital Strategy & Research of Cox Media Group.  We look forward to continuing our great partnership in 2017!